COUNCIL BUDGET ‘MISSED OPPORTUNITY’ SAY DEMOCRATIC INDEPENDENT AND GREEN COUNCILLORS

An alternative budget for Aberdeenshire was proposed by the Democratic Independent and Green group of councillors (DIGG) when the Council voted on its revenue budget for 2014/15 last Thursday, 13 February.
The DIGG budget contained proposals for redirecting some existing Council spend and generating new income through investment in renewable energy installations on Council-owned sites. As a result, funding was available in the DIGG budget for a range of improvements to key Council services, including an extra dog warden, more youth workers and pupil support assistants, and investment in cycling infrastructure and libraries. A copy of the full DIGG budget amendment and detailed proposals is attached.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Conservative-led coalition administration proposed a budget with no new measures or service improvements.

Introducing the DIGG budget amendment at last Thursday’s full council meeting, Green councillor Martin Ford said: “I am proposing an alternative budget – because the Council could do so much better. The DIGG budget is based on a commitment to protecting and improving public services. So our starting point is that’s what we’re going to do. Now let’s find a way to achieve that.
“We are able to make improvements in key services by generating long-term, additional income from investing in renewable energy. In the 2014/15 budget, additional funding for front-line services will come from using the unspent balance in the Innovation Fund, and some income from new renewable energy installations coming on stream. In the following years, the full year income from renewable energy will exceed the one-off contribution from the Innovation Fund, providing on-going funding for our proposed service improvements.”
Cllr Paul Johnston seconded the DIGG budget proposal. Cllr Johnston said: “There are two important reasons to challenge the administration’s proposed budget.
“Firstly, the Council is sitting on substantial unspent funds. In this case, we identified over £1.1 million in the so-called Innovation Fund, unspent and unallocated for use. We believe that’s no way to run things. It means the Council has cut services or failed to progress improvements when actually money was available.
“Secondly, the Council has the opportunity to invest in projects that bring innovation and income for the authority. We could be both avoiding spending cuts and tackling climate change if the Council grasped what is being proposed.”

Summing up the budget debate on behalf of the DIGG, Cllr Ford said, “Paragraph 2.3 of the officers’ report reminds us ‘The revenue budget is a statement, in financial terms, of the Council’s strategic priorities for service provision for the years ahead’. What we’ve heard today from the Administration are statements about future priorities – but not in financial terms. The Administration’s proposal is a no-change budget. Not one single new proposal backed up by a financial commitment.”

Cllr Paul Johnston said, “Administration councillors have taken the ‘no leadership’ option, simply accepting the basic stand-still budget suggested by officers.”
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